And we’re back! Welcome to Return of the Winter TV Superlatives: The Big Spoiler Edition. A reminder of the shows I’ve been watching for the past 3 months.
Hawkeye (Episodes 4-6)
Nancy Drew (Season 3, Episodes 5-13)
Running Man (Episodes 36-49 and Episodes 582-593)
The Expanse (Season 6)
The Witcher (Season 2)
The Silent Sea
All of Us Are Dead
Star Trek (Season 3, Episodes 1-3)
Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 1-2)
SPOILERS will start off light, but we’ll be getting to the plot twists and secret villains and such very quickly, so read carefully, my friends! (Seriously, read lightly if you’re even considering watching shows like Beyond Evil—WHICH YOU SHOULD. Remember, the Honorable Mentions are spoilers, too!)
FAVORITE SCENE STEALER – GUEST SPOT
Pastor Anna – The Expanse
Prax – The Expanse
Dr. Elvi Okoye – The Expanse
Purely because I loved all of these characters in previous seasons and was surprised and delighted to see them pop up again here, even for a brief moment. I’ve missed you, Anna, Prax, and Okoye!
Honorable Mentions: Shannon (Ted Lasso); Nora (Ted Lasso); Deborah (Ted Lasso); Lead New Yorker # 1 (Hawkeye); Mouse (The Witcher); Mrs. Singh (Yellowjackets); Young Lee Dong Sik (Beyond Evil)
Rupert – Ted Lasso
Nate – Ted Lasso
Lee Na Yeon – All of Us Are Dead
For such a positive show with so many great characters, there are some fucking infuriating people on Ted Lasso. Our Season 1 Chief Asshat is definitely Rupert, Rebecca’s awful ex-husband. He’s a pretty standard slimy ex, but Anthony Head plays him to such smug perfection that I get the Kill Bill vengeance music in my brain anytime I see him. I swear to God, I’ve never wanted to kick Giles in the balls so hard.
However, Season 2 Chief Asshat is obviously Nate.
I know this was devastating for many who fell in love with him in Season 1, but if I’m being honest, Nate’s always been my least favorite character. Nick Mohammed does fine work, and Nate definitely does have moments that made me laugh, but I actually didn’t like the infamous roast speech (I thought it played too mean, which OFC is perfect now), and there’s just something about how everyone treats Nate like he’s a shy 18-year-old kid and not a fully grown 40-something man that’s never quite sat right with me. Like, Jason Sudeikis is only 5 years older than Nick Mohammed, but you wouldn’t know it the way these characters interact. And when power goes to Nate’s head and he starts acting like an entitled dick, that just . . . didn’t ring false to me. And WOW, does he act like a dick, first to Will and then to Colin and holy shit, to Ted. Nate’s betrayal was heavily telegraphed all season, but damn, I haven’t wanted to punch someone so hard in a good long while now.
Finally, no Chief Asshat list would be complete without Lee Na Yeon, who purposefully infects a poor student that she doesn’t like with Zombie Virus just to prove to her classmates that they should listen to her next time, that she was totally right to be afraid of him, and should otherwise be forgiven for treating people like shit. Na Yeon’s potential redemptive arc is abruptly and violently cut off at the knees, presumably because nobody wanted to see her get redeemed. She is kinda The Worst, and that includes Gwi Nam, this show’s actual villain.
Honorable Mentions: James Tartt (Ted Lasso); Filip (The Expanse); Travis (Yellowjackets); Oh Yeon Ok (Happiness); Kim Hak Je (Happiness); Kim Dong Hyun (Happiness); Gook Hae Sung (Happiness); Lee Byeong Chan (All of Us Are Dead)
Bev Keane – Midnight Mass
Samantha Sloyan is fantastic in this show. I enjoyed her work in The Haunting of Hill House and Hush, but this is the first role I’ve seen that really showcases her talent. Bev is a goddamn monster. Not literally—at least, not until the very end—but she’s still a ruthless zealot who will justify pretty much anything to keep control and remain the ruler behind the scenes. Everything is on the table here: passive aggressive racism, arson, covering up murder, etc. My absolute favorite moment is when Bev discovers Father Paul in his room with a very bloody corpse and is just quietly like, okay—because she is an evil human being, yes, but by God, she’s a practical one. I desperately hope Samantha Sloyan’s performance isn’t forgotten about when Emmy nominations come out this year because she desperately deserves one.
Honorable Mentions: Father Paul (Midnight Mass); Ye Zun (Guardian); Oh Joo Hyeong (Happiness); Andrew (Happiness); Lee Chang Jin (Beyond Evil)
James Tartt – Ted Lasso
Han Ki Hwan – Beyond Evil
I mean, on one hand, Jamie’s dad is verbally and physically abusive. His A+ parenting techniques are directly linked to why Jamie’s such a selfish asshat in the beginning of the show. Jamie gets better, but James Tartt never does. He humiliates his kid in front of his own teammates for shits and giggles. Basically, he’s scum. No redeeming qualities whatsoever.
On the other hand, Han Ki Hwan is an extremely cold and distant father who institutionalizes his wife because he considers her mental illness and alcoholism an embarrassment. He is definitely why his son is so emotionally fucked up. Also, Han Ki Hwan accidentally killed somebody, and while he doesn’t technically confirm he’d have his own son killed to cover it up, let’s just say he doesn’t exactly deny it, either.
Honorable Mentions: Eleanor Bishop (Hawkeye); Marco Inaros (The Expanse); Nat’s Dad (Yellowjackets); Do Hae Won (Beyond Evil)
MOST COMICALLY TRAGIC CHARACTER
Cheong San’s Mom – All Of Us Are Dead
Okay. I’m a terrible person, I know. But poor Cheong San’s Mom (AKA, Chicken Mom, due to the salty chicken restaurant she owns) is kinda hilariously inept. She wants to find and save her kid, which is very sweet and all, but . . . I mean, she manages to fall over on her moped after approximately .00005 seconds of driving it. Like, there aren’t zombies or obstacles or anything. She just tries to zoom away and goes down. She later crashes the moped again when she makes a turn and nearly runs into someone. Chicken Mom finally makes it to the school by nightfall, only to immediately get bitten by her son’s best friend, and then she’s just . . . wandering around the field for like 5 or 6 episodes before Cheong San finally finds out. And admittedly, that scene is genuinely sad, like, I felt bad for both characters. But also, this was episode after episode of me saying, “Will Cheong San finally find Zombie Chicken Mom today? Nope, nope, okay then.” And, “Hm, I wonder what Zombie Chicken Mom is up to these days. Oh, yup, there she is. Still doing laps around the school.”
I’m so sorry, Zombie Chicken Mom. I’m sure other people with actual hearts weren’t laughing at you, but I’m a monster.
MOST HORRIFICALLY TRAGIC CHARACTER
Lee Dong Sik’s Mom – Beyond Evil
A short list of things that happen to this poor woman:
A. She finds her daughter’s 10 amputated fingertips in the front yard.
B. Her son is initially arrested and widely suspected of the abduction/murder.
C. Her husband freezes to death, waiting for their missing daughter to return home.
D. She has a breakdown upon finding her husband’s body and ends up mostly catatonic.
E. The serial killer who cut off her daughter’s fingertips and entombed her corpse spends the next 20 years visiting Mom’s bedside and creepily fondling her hands.
Like, Jesus CHRIST. Justice for Lee Dong Sik’s Mom!
Honorable Mentions: Sheriff Hassan (Midnight Mass); Mildred (Midnight Mass); Shen Wei (Guardian); Zhao Yunlan (Guardian)
BEST DISTILLATION OF A CHARACTER
Oh Yeon Ok, with literal blood on her hands, still wants to be the next Building Representative – Happiness
First, I just need to say that I fucking adore Bae Hae Seon in Happiness. I’ve liked this actress since I first saw her in Hotel Del Luna, and she is sublime here as That Awful Snobby Neighbor, you know the one. The kind of person who still cares about class distinctions and house values in the middle of a zombie outbreak and will justify doing absolutely heinous shit in order to get whatever she believes she deserves.
By the time the finale rolls around, Yeon Ok—who has already conspired to murder our heroes and actively tried to murder the Big Bad—has pretty much lost her shit, like, she’s running around the building, hysterically asking the air why no one’s listening to her. But still, she takes the time to argue exactly why she’s still qualified to be the Building Representative. When Sae Bom’s all, “Fine, whatever, I’ll vote for you when you get out of jail,” Yeon Ok is actually pacified and calms down, which is just, like. Beautiful. Her whole character in a nutshell right there. I LOVE IT.
Half the cast – Midnight Mass
Look. Everyone in this show is a fantastic actor, and I get that Mike Flanagan likes to stick with a regular lineup, but boy, it’s real hard to pull off any Big Twists when you cast multiple people who are 20 years too young for their roles. Though to be fair, Kristin Lehman and Henry Thomas genuinely have some of the best old age makeup I’ve ever seen, in that I didn’t immediately look at it and think, “Old age makeup! That’s old age makeup!” Unfortunately, the same can NOT be said for Alex Essoe, who’s supposedly gray and tottering and, FFS, is obviously like 25 or something. (Which isn’t a knock to the actress. I actually quite like her in the role, but come on now. Mildred’s supposed to have dementia, and I’m like, “Please. This bitch is younger than I am.”)
MOST DISGUSTING MOMENT
Coach Scott’s smushed leg reveal – Yellowjackets
Holy Jesus. Ow. OW. OW.
Father Paul drinks blood straight from Joe’s head – Midnight Mass
Holy Jesus. Creepy. CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPY.
Honorable Mentions: Dong Sik’s trademark grin (Beyond Evil)
FAVORITE BODY HORROR
Gong Soo Chan coughs up an ocean’s worth of mysterious water, drowning from the inside – The Silent Sea
Of course, this terrible fate befalls more than one person on this show, but the first time is definitely the eeriest. When Soo Chan first starts throwing up water, when it starts gushing out of his trach, just—so good, so sad, so creepy.
Honorable Mention: All the goddamn bone cracking (All of Us Are Dead)
MOST HOLY SHIT MOMENT
Yi Hyun deliberately smears potentially infected zombie blood all over Joo Hyeong’s face – Happiness
Oh, man. We’re told that Yi Hyun has a temper, but for the first few episodes, I never saw much evidence of it. That is, until Oh Joo Hyeong, wife-murderer and all-around scumbag, purposefully tries to get Yi Hyun, Sae Bom, and a bunch of other people killed when he incites his neighbors to lock them out of the building, all the while playing the horrible sounds of his own zombie wife to further fuel everyone’s panic.
Once Yi Hyun does get inside, he proceeds to completely and absolutely lose his shit, wiping a blood-soaked apron all over his hands, grabbing Joo Hyeong by the face, and smearing blood all over him. Joo Hyeong doesn’t get infected because that’s not quite how it works here, but he does scream at a register far higher than one I can accomplish, and goddamn, is it satisfying. And like, look, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to think Yi Hyun is incredibly unhinged and hot in this scene, but . . . yeah. This was hot.
Honorable Mentions: Yi Hyun turns and bites the fuck out of Andrew’s neck (Happiness); Attack of the Zombie Toddlers (All of Us Are Dead); Misty destroys the black box (Yellowjackets); Dong Sik placed the finger tips at the grocery store (Beyond Evil); Dong Sik sends Kang Jin Mook a text from “Min Jeong” (Beyond Evil)
FAVORITE BADASS MOMENT
Annie tells Bev that she’s not a good person – Midnight Mass
Bobbie charges the rail gun – The Expanse
Ted beats Rupert at darts – Ted Lasso
There are many different types of awesome badass moments. Annie, for instance, has a fairly quiet one. This isn’t a beatdown. She doesn’t kick anyone’s ass. But that moment when she steps out of the burning house and calmly tells Bev that she’s not a good person, that God doesn’t hold her in higher regard than anyone else because God loves everyone equally . . . goddamn, Kristin Lehman nails that delivery. It’s calm and confident and honest to Christ one of my favorite moments in the whole show.
Of course, there’s still something to be said for the more action-y badass scenes, too, and when Bobbie charges the rail gun in “Babylon’s Ashes,” I mean, damn. Bobbie is such a fantastic character, and this particular moment encapsulates both her practicality and her heroism so very well. If she had died here, I’d have been (grudgingly) okay with it, but I’m extremely relieved that she didn’t. Especially since I also loved seeing Amos jump in and bodily protect her. Man, I enjoyed the hell out of these two together this season.
Finally, the infamous dart game, one of Ted Lasso’s most quintessential scenes. It’s a fun scene because watching Ted successfully hustle notorious asshat Rupert is obviously a good time, but it’s also such a good example of that heart this show is known for. As a general rule, I don’t generally come to television seeking inspirational quotes and aphorisms, but God help me, be curious, not judgmental has definitely stuck in my brain. (Even if the line apparently wasn’t spoken by Walt Whitman.)
Honorable Mentions: Drummer tells Marco to “live shamed, die empty” (The Expanse); Avasarala guilt trips Monica (The Expanse); Amos confronts Holden about the missile (The Expanse); Jeff tells off Jackie’s parents (Yellowjackets); Shauna promises mutually assured destruction with her daughter (Yellowjackets); Fringella poisons, paralyzes, and murders her enemies (The Witcher); Tissaia tortures Cahir (The Witcher); Nam Ra slaps Na Yeon (All Of Us Are Dead); Bev finds Father Paul with a very dead body (Midnight Mass); Erin shoots Bev (Midnight Mass); Dong Sik ruins Han Ki Hwan’s confirmation hearing by arresting Joo Won (Beyond Evil); Yi Hyun chases down a car and parkours off a truck to rescue Sae Bom (Happiness); Sae Bom kicks Joo Hyeong in the balls (Happiness); Basically any other time Sae Bom punches or kicks this guy (Happiness); Sae Bom pulls a gun on the owners trying to keep everyone locked up (Happiness); Shin So Yoon leaves her awful husband (Happiness)
YOU’RE KILLING ME, SMALLS
Guo Changcheng – Guardian
Temperance curses Ace to die if Nancy ever acts on her feelings for him – Nancy Drew
Yes, this award goes Changcheng’s entire character because holy shit, this kid is the most inept person I have ever seen on the small screen, and I’m including Chicken Mom on that list. His nickname on the team is Little Guo, but his nickname in the St. George household became Little Incompetent. He just . . . he kills me. There are frankly too many moments to list, but a couple which particularly stand out: A) when he manages to find the switch that will keep everyone from freezing to death and immediately renders it useless in the stupidest way possible, and B) when he accidentally buys a sex doll and doesn’t seem to understand what a sex doll even IS. Just. I know he’s meant to be young and innocent, but FFS, he isn’t eight. I’m sure Changcheng is supposed to be funny, but mostly I just found him incredibly aggravating.
Still, Temperance’s final curse aggravates me too because it’s just so absurd. If she’d done something like this earlier in the season just to be an asshole, I could’ve respected that, like, sure it’s manufactured and unnecessary angst, but I’d have rolled my eyes and moved on. But for this to be Temperance’s Big Last Play, the ace up her sleeve—no pun intended— that she thinks will keep Nancy from killing her, like, what? WHY? It makes no sense. Why in God’s name would Temperance be all, “If you kill me, I’ll release this curse from beyond that grave that will kill Ace if you tell him that you LIKE him-like him” instead of just, y’know, “if you kill me, I’ll release this curse from beyond that grave that will immediately kill Ace, hard stop.” IT IS SO DUMB I CAN’T EVEN.
Leaving Changcheng alone to guard ANYONE, much less Zhu Jiu – Guardian
Listen. I’ve seen a lot of bullshit plans, but to give guard duty to Little Incompetent is just . . . wow, WOW, it’s a bad idea. Zhu Jiu isn’t actually the Big Bad, but he is the primary villain our team has encountered thus far, meaning he probably shouldn’t be left alone with the wimpiest and most useless guy on the team or planet; worse, Changcheng and Zhu Jiu are left alone in the same room with the sacred objects, you know, the ones Zhu Jiu has been trying to steal all season. It is MADDENING.
Honorable Mentions: Shen Wei confronting the broken pillar prison when he’s already hurt and, oh look, now his evil brother has trapped him there; I’m shocked that this completely unnecessary plan went awry (Guardian); Kate saves Clint by shooting down the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, that definitely wouldn’t have killed people (Hawkeye); Lasso not telling the team before bringing back Jamie (Ted Lasso); Basically every time Joo Won decides to confront Dong Sik after learning any minor scrap of potentially damning information (Beyond Evil); Let’s bring a vampire back to my hometown—excuse me, an ANGEL (Midnight Mass); We should be WAY more careful around the dead bodies, please and thank you (The Silent Sea)
FAVORITE WTF MOMENT
Shauna dreams of giving birth to a rotisserie chicken – Yellowjackets
There’s a lot of fucked up to go around on this show, but yeah. Considering the possibility that this could very well be on-the-nose foreshadow . . . EEP.
Yunlun isn’t a reincarnation of Kunlun; he just went back in time – Guardian
Andrew is a serial killer, and conspired with half the residents to kill Kim Se Moon for his food – Happiness
Truthfully, I’m not 100% sure if the time travel IS a twist because this wouldn’t be the first time that I wildly missed the context for something in a Chinese or Korean drama. But I definitely assumed that I was getting into a reincarnation story, and was both surprised and delighted to discover that it’s actually a closed loop time travel story instead. I do wish the show had spent more time in the past, considering how rushed this section felt, but still, I didn’t see this one coming and thought that was pretty neat.
I must also give props to Happiness, though, not just because Andrew is secretly a serial killer, but because so many other people were like, sure, we’ll just conspire with this random creep to fucking murder a dude for his food. I mean, we got that reveal, and I was all fuuuuuuuuck. Admittedly, I don’t think every character understood that Andrew was an honest to God serial killer? Still, they all seemed pretty down with the murder plan. These fucking people, I swear to God. Happiness is a great show, but be warned, you will want to STAB some people while watching it.
Honorable Mentions: Hannah is the Phantom Knocker (Nancy Drew)
Jeff . . . actually doesn’t suck? – Yellowjackets
Jeff is Shauna’s husband, and we’re definitely supposed to think he’s an adulterous asshole, but it turns out he’s actually not so awful! I mean, okay. He is still a blackmailer, and he’s not always the brightest dude, like, he actually believes that Shauna’s going to book club, rather than having a revenge-affair. But he still has a shockingly badass moment when he defends his wife from his old GF’s parents, and he not only forgives Shauna for said revenge-affair, he also helps out after she kills that dude she was sleeping with. Between the two of them, Jeff and Shauna have racked up at least half a dozen felonies, but man, I just can’t help but root for these two crazy kids anyway.
Honorable Mentions: Coach Scott is somehow still alive (Yellowjackets); the serial killer is revealed only six episodes in (Beyond Evil); Riley gets attacked by the vampire well sooner than I expected (Midnight Mass); Riley sacrifices himself at the end of episode 5 (Midnight Mass); Dr. Hong Ga Young lives (The Silent Sea); none of my favorite characters die (The Expanse); Zhang Shi survives in Zhao Yunlan’s body (Guardian); Ted Lasso immediately forgives Rebecca (Ted Lasso)
GRAND PRIZE FOR SURVIVAL
Dr. Hong Ga-Young – The Silent Sea
Coach Scott – Yellowjackets
Van – Yellowjackets
Look. There are certain characters in certain genres who just don’t survive. We all know this, right? So, it is extra special when they do make it out against all odds. Dr. Hong Ga Young, for instance, has two big points going against her: she’s the doctor in a space horror show, and she’s the second female character in a space horror show. Traditionally, these are the kinds of things that get you eaten in the second act, but Dr. Hong Ga Young survives it all, and I was absolutely delighted to see it.
Meanwhile, there’s about .00005% chance Coach Scott is going to make it; nevertheless, the fact that he is still alive at the end of Season 1 is nothing short of a fucking miracle. Thus far he’s survived a plane crash, a leg amputation, and a case of mild poisoning, and the more we learn about this guy, the more I find myself cheering for him anyway. Like, I know he has no chance, really, but still I’m just so impressed by how far he’s come.
Finally, we have Van from Yellowjackets. Van isn’t quite so Marked for Death as the previous two characters; OTOH, she’s survived even worse odds than Coach Scott. First the plane crash (where she nearly burned to death/exploded because she was trapped in her seat), then a wolf mauling (her cheek gets holy-shit-fucked), and finally a funeral pyre (because her friends try to burn her corpse, not realizing she’s still alive.) It’s unclear if Van will live long enough to be rescued or not, but goddamn, this girl has already survived a LOT, and I am rooting for her to make it through.
Honorable Mentions: Leeza (Midnight Mass); Warren (Midnight Mass); Drummer (The Expanse); Bobbie (The Expanse); Amos (The Expanse); Nat (Yellowjackets); Taissa (Yellowjackets); Shauna (Yellowjackets); Misty (Yellowjackets); Jung Yi Hyun (Happiness); Kim Jeong Gook (Happiness); Seo Hyo Ryung (All of Us Are Dead); Yang Dae Su (All of Us Are Dead)
Riley – Midnight Mass
This is very powerful scene, and it works for multiple different reasons. For one, Riley’s death is a surprise, or at least I was surprised. He’s ostensibly our main character, our introduction to this small community, and I was not expecting him to die with two full episodes to go. It’s also a nice bit of closure. For years, Riley’s been haunted by nightmare visions of the girl he accidentally killed, but in the moment of death, he sees a vision of her alive again, smiling and offering her hand in forgiveness. It’s my FAVORITE MEANINGFUL HALLUCINATION/VISION, if for no other reason than how this poignant moment immediately cuts to Erin screaming in horror as Riley burns alive in front of her.
Honorable Mention for Best Death: Annie (Midnight Mass); Rosenfeld (The Expanse); Ryan (Nancy Drew); Nam Sang Bae (Beyond Evil)
Zhao Yunlan – Guardian
So. I resisted watching this show for a long time because I knew it didn’t have a happy ending, and I just didn’t feel like shipping an OTP for 40 episodes only to watch one of them inevitably bite it at the end. However, eventually Mek and I did end up checking it out, and we very quickly came to the conclusion that of our two heroes, Shen Wei was definitely the most likely to die. Which he did, and it was very depressing, yes, but at least I’d had time to steel my heart against it.
I had not, however, bothered to steel my heart for Zhao Yunlan, because it just hadn’t occurred to me that both our leads might die. And what’s worse, dude doesn’t just die, oh no. First, Zhao Yunlan watches Shen Wei get murdered, helpless to save him, and then he sacrifices himself, knowing that he’ll be condemned to die and live again an infinite number of times in horrible, burning pain, and like—come ON. Why are you doing this to my heart, show? Have we not all suffered enough?
Honorable Mentions: All the cats (Midnight Mass); the dog (Midnight Mass); Riley (Midnight Mass); Sheriff (Midnight Mass); Sarah (Midnight Mass); Shen Wei (Guardian); Wang Zheng (Guardian); Gong Soo Chan (The Silent Sea); Chief Gong Soo Hyuk (The Silent Sea); Roach (The Witcher); Ryan (Nancy Drew); Kim Se Hoon (Happiness); I-sak (All of Us Are Dead); Han Gyeong Su (All Of Us Are Dead); Oh Joon Young (All of Us Are Dead); Lee Cheong San (All of Us Are Dead); Jang Wu In (All of Us Are Dead) Jung Min Jae (All Of Us Are Dead)
. . . and whew, that’s everything for now. Until next time!